Kittens may be cute and cuddly, but they are also everywhere.
Local rescue volunteers say Centre County, and more broadly central Pennsylvania, has long been a breeding ground for stray and feral cats. The overpopulation of cats has those rescue organizations desperately trying to find space, foster homes and permanent families for cats and kittens.
The problem has become so severe that a woman, who was not identified by Centre County Paws, has underwritten every kitten adoption at the rescue through Labor Day. The issue is bad enough that there are 27 litters of kittens on a waiting list to get into Pets Come First for adoption. And Fonda’s Foundlings Cat Rescue has rescued about 1,700 cats in 12 years.
In a community where the dog population is under control — Paws takes some dogs in from other places — how can there be so many cats running wild?
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The answer, rescuers say, isn’t that people don’t love cats.
“There has always been an issue here in Centre County, and that’s that there are too many cats,” Paws Director of Development and Marketing Chris Faust said. “It’s not a matter of doing something about it that will fix it completely. The reality is that there are a lot of stray and feral cats out there. They are everywhere and multiplying.”
Pets Come First shelter manager Deb Warner said cats can have three litters a year and that they can begin to breed when they are about six months old. Due to a warm winter, she said cats bred year-round to compound the problem.
“Cats are easy to drop off somewhere or to dump on the side of the road,” Warner said. “They get dumped and are left to fend for themselves, because some people think they’ll be OK on their own. Some people just don’t care.”
“Domesticated cats can’t take care of themselves when someone has taken care of them,” Faust added.
Warner also said that most surrendered cats come from elderly owners who can’t take care of their pets anymore.
Some college students are also to blame, said Shirley Fonda, Fonda’s Foundlings Cat Rescue founder.
“They get cats, and then they sometimes dump them,” Fonda said. “Those ones don’t take a cat as a lifetime responsibility or as a family member. They make their cat a short-term companion and then leave it in their apartment when they move out or just dump it outside of the apartment for someone else to find. It’s terrible.”
The biggest issue, though, is that some people never get their cats fixed.
“It’s ridiculous,” Fonda said. “There are ways to get them spayed and neutered in our county. You can get it done with vouchers. There’s no excuse for not getting them fixed.”
Paws’ spay/neuter voucher reduces the cost of managing a feral/stray colony or getting cats or dogs fixed. All Pets Vet Clinic and Allegheny Spay and Neuter Clinic accept vouchers as the full price of surgery for cats. People can apply for the vouchers online.
The high intake of cats means that rescues also sometimes face food and supply shortages. They also need to find a way to foster cats because their facilities are usually full.
“We found one last week, a little kitten crying and couldn’t get up,” Fonda said. “When I lifted it up, it was limp. It had an abscess on its face, a hole in it’s chin. I spent the money to get it better. I knew it’d be dead if I didn’t do something, so I spend thousands to get them well and to adopt them out. Then I hope that they don’t get dumped later.”